Behind the Fringe – Notes on the Direction behind the new show


For the Fringe show I wanted to work on a few things.

First of all the idea of ‘Soup and Sermon’ which we got from our time working with Jason Chin. So the idea that the preacher gets the non believers into the Church with the Soup and then they stay for the Sermon. With the Fringe, we wanted to make the the first half do the same, basically a massive pimp-fest where the audience are in on the joke of knowing that you have to do magic/stand-up/acrobatics or whatever comes out of the hat. Then in the second half we can go much deeper and more relationship based.

While the first half was a decision on my part to be as literal as possible, I also think that in choosing to do this show we made a promise to our audience. Every time in five nights a ‘difficult’ show was read out there was a huge laugh of anticipation from those watching – because they knew they were going to enjoy watching us struggle. I felt that considering the nature of our publicity for the show and our audience at Komedia that I wanted to honour that promise.

In rehearsals, we worked on techniques for improvising each ‘section.’ So what would it be like to do a straight reading from an imaginary book if literature came up? We worked with tableaus for visual art, physical listening for Dance pieces and what is it like to stand there and do a stand up comedy routine when the material is improvised?  Also to do all of these things as seriously as possible. It was likely they would become parodies, with improvisers doing the thing badly but we wanted to be true and not start off making a joke out of it.

It had been a very long time since we worked this way as a company, as we have for so long worked on UCB style game based work and in the last 6 months or so since Jason’s visit have worked very hard on grounded, relationship and emotionally driven scenes. In particular trying to weave that relationship based work into our premise based shows. One thing that really came out of the Fringe show was that our scenes suddenly became alot more physical, bold and animated in a way they hadn’t been for a while. It’s inevitable that when you work on one area, that the others suffer so it was great to get away from the kind of talking heads scenes that happen sometimes when you’re focussing on feelings. I hope this sense of colour is something we’ll take back with us into Confessions and our new shows.

For the second half, the Sermon, I just wanted to develop the direction we have been going in for a little while to have a loose longform with some tangential narrative elements. We worked from one show from the Brochure, starting with a twist on an invocation in which we described what we saw the show as being and then escalated it to explore the themes of that show. I see…You are…Thou art…I am…THE FRINGE SHOW!

The Structure we had was;

  • Invocation
  • Scene 1 – The show/tour/music/whatever we picked re-enacted
  • Scene 2 – The world of the show. So in one example where we picked a one man show in a bath tub, our scene 2 was someone moving into their boyfriend’s for one month because there was a Fringe show happening in their house.
  • Scene 3 – A scene exploring the overall theme of the second half, generated by the invocation, but not connected to the pull from the Brochure. Another example was a Victoriana play we pulled; our scene 3 was exploring the rich/poor divide and the relationship between the two.

From this point there was no plan other than to explore some second beats, relationships between the scenes themselves and work within whatever theme had been set.

In summary then, the Fringe Show was a definite decision to do something different with the material and overall I felt it was a success and really enjoyable. Generally though I think it was a good reminder to keep pushing the boundaries and comfort zones and not get stuck in a improv rut because you can always go back to what you are already good at.

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